At the western end of the Blue Mountains is the town of Oberon. It is a farming district with timber logging and milling, and its high altitude attracts snowfalls in winter. Mayfield Garden is located about ten minutes outside of Oberon, and I recently had a wander around on a very warm spring day.
The gardens were created by the Hawkins family after they bought a sheep farm here in 1984. It has been transformed into one of the largest privately owned cool climate gardens in the world, inspired by the great gardens of Europe, Asia and Australia. The main garden of approximately 20 hectares is open 363 days a year. The entrance to the garden is through some extensive kitchen gardens with a cafe and plant nursery nearby. The cafe offers a seasonal menu, making best use of the garden produce on offer.
The track to the garden leads up a small hill before curving along stone garden beds with extensive plantings of hydrangeas. There are over a thousand plants, and would be spectacular when in bloom. One of the main landmarks in the garden is an obelisk; this can be used as a handy reference if you become disorientated, and it was visible from many aspects of the garden. This area would look stunning at night, softly lit.
A little further along the water feature comes into view. This is an extensive lake area that links around much of the garden. It was a beautiful space with lots of different coloured lotus water lilies and birds, including Eurasian coots and a family of Australasian grebe ducks, plus herons and honeyeaters. Though it was only late morning, the day was warming up and the water feature felt like a cool oasis.
Mayfield House can be seen from the approach to the bluestone bridge. Four stonemasons built the bridge over a year, and it includes a five-metre high waterfall cascading through the centre.
Beyond the bridge, more running water can be heard. This is the grotto, inspired by great English garden grottos and follies. It was designed as an escape from hot sun. Behind the grotto there is a marble sculpture, and it is also home to the mud nests of fairy martins who swoop in and around the tumbling water.
Further along the track, which curves along garden beds and water features, is the sandstone gallery. This was built in a style reminiscent of the Hartley Court House. Inside is a gallery of photos and information about the key people and designs that contributed to the construction of Mayfield Garden. There is a wonderful view down towards the obelisk from the gallery.
Winding back through the garden along meandering paths across lakes and bridges is another highlight. The approach to the Copper Tree Fountain is through a wisteria-covered iron arbour. The fountain was exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2008 by Iranian sculptor Mehrdad Tafreshi. It was later bought by Garrick and Evelyn Hawkins to add to their collection of follies in the garden, and it is a beautiful work of art.
Whilst I was able to explore the extensive garden, there are further sections open to the public each season. These include sunken garden rooms, a maze, walled kitchen gardens and glasshouse, bird aviary, cascade, a temple and a Chook Hilton. There is also a chapel and a studio. All around the gardens, the sheep and cattle farm continues to operate.
There is video footage available including this clip on YouTube which shows the gardens a couple of years ago, and includes views of the maze. It is an ever-changing landscape, and is a spectacular place to visit at any time of the year. It is a credit to all of the people who create and maintain this beautiful space.
[Photo: red bridge and bluestone bridge across the lake]